'Frustrated' OPP respond to more than 360 'preventable' crashes as snow squalls hit London area
Traffic on Hwy. 4 (Richmond Street) north of London was moving very slowly on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, due to heavy snow cover and falling snow. Traffic often stopped due to the poor road conditions which led to vehicles sliding into the ditch. (MIKE HENSEN/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network)
LONDON, Ont. -- Winter weather may have arrived late, but it packed a punch Thursday in London.
As snow kept falling throughout the day, and vehicles skidded into ditches, poles and each other, exasperated provincial police urged people to stay off the roads. Or, at the very least, clear off their windows and drive slow.
"There's no magic to winter driving, you'd think it was the most complex thing in the world," said OPP Western Region Sgt. David Rektor. "We are all very frustrated. We see trucks doing 100 (km/h), they should be doing 60. They're tailgating. . . It's no wonder we are having all these problems on the highway."
By late Thursday morning, Western Region OPP had already responded to more than 360 "preventable" crashes -- including 35 that resulted in people being injured, Rektor said. Two of those crashes resulted in serious and life-threatening injuries, he said.
Visibility in the area was reduced to near zero at times because of snow squalls.
School buses were cancelled Thursday in London and Middlesex and in the Exeter and South Huron area.
Rektor said emergency workers are at risk while responding to crashes.
"You are witnessing other drivers driving right at you, not pulling into the other lane, and you're thinking 'Should I be heading for the ditch myself so I don't get killed?'" he said.
Things were looking better in the city of London, where police said there had been 40 crashes in the same 24-hour period. Typically, there are between 25 and 30 crashes in a 24-hour period, they said.
"It's slightly higher than normal," said London Traffic Sgt. Amanda Pfeffer. "Drivers are doing a good job within the city."
Though drivers seemed to be travelling slower than usual, Pfeffer said many didn't take the time to clear snow from their vehicles.
"On my commute in, I saw dozens of vehicles that weren't properly cleared off, and it just contributes to the congestion. People who are not clearing off their vehicles can't see as well," she said.
City police were impressed with the results of a one-day traffic blitz at high-crash intersections Wednesday.
Traffic officers spent the day at four busy intersections across London, looking for red light, seat belt and cellphone violations.
Throughout the day, they only issued two tickets for seat-belt violations, and seven for cellphone violations. They did not see any red light violations.
"I think that's a good news story. It indicates to me that people were really focusing on safe motor vehicle operation," Pfeffer said.